VIPD: We Couldn’t Search Ryan Bane’s Yacht After Sarm Heslop’s Boyfriend Invoked 5th Amendment Against Self-Incrimination
CRUZ BAY — The Virgin Islands Police Department has released more information about the search for 41-year-old Sarm Joan Lillian Heslop, who was last seen on March 7 aboard the 47-foot catamaran Siren Song moored off of Frank Bay in St. John.
According to police, Ryan Bane, the owner of the yacht that Heslop was living on with him, initially contacted police at about 2:30 a.m. on March 8.
“VIPD officers met with Ryan Bane, Ms. Heslop’s companion, shortly after he contacted the 911 Emergency Call Center to report Ms. Heslop’s disappearance from the boat,” VIPD spokesman Toby Derima said.
Previously, it was reported that the 44-year-old Bane called the U.S. Coast Guard much later that morning, at 11:46 a.m. that day. It is unclear why the Coast Guard was not contacted at that time, or why police did not directly request assistance from the Coast Guard.
“After speaking with Bane, officers performed an initial land search,” Derima said. “The officers also instructed Bane to contact the United States Coast Guard. The Coast Guard conducted a search of the vessel for Heslop later that morning. The USCG also conducted a search of the area around the vessel on the sea.”
U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said his military agency in addition to launching a search, also conducted “a series of actions, notifications to partner agencies in the Virgin Islands.”
Those actions included a drift analysis to try to determine where currents would have dragged Heslop and reaching out to other boats in the area.
Castrodad said there was no evidence that indicated Heslop entered the water, and no sign of her was found during the search.
David Woody was in one of two other boats (Black Sheep and Osprey) that was moored 100 feet from the Siren Song on March 7-8 and was surprised Ryan didn’t ask them for help to find Sarm after he woke up alone.
“I would be trying to find out if (anyone) saw or heard anything,” Woody told the (London) Daily Mail. “He could have spoken from his boat to our boat, or motored the dinghy.”
Soon after reporting Heslop missing, Bane acquired the services of Attorney David J. Cattie of Ogletree Deakins in St. Thomas, police said. Under Cattie’s advice, Bane exercised his constitutional right to remain silent and denied officers’ requests to search the vessel, the VIPD said.
Meanwhile, Flora Pickard, a self-professed friend of both Bane and Heslop, posted an image of Lucy Schuhmann side-by-side with one of Sarm Heslop to Facebook on March 13, 2021. Schuhmann, of Louisville, Kentucky, also “vanished without a trace” from St. John in September 2019.
Pickard allowed that Schuhmann was a dead ringer for Heslop. Pickard has been quoted in the London Daily Mail and The London Times as saying that Heslop was a heavy drinker who could have used her yachting connections to escape to another island without identification documents.
The police spokesman said: ““we are still searching, doing regular inspections of the areas and speaking to potential witnesses.”
“We would need to get a warrant to search the boat,” Derima told the (London) Independent. “We would need to show the court that we had probable cause to search the boat, as this is not yet a criminal case. We thought we could just ask Mr. Bane to search the boat and he would say yes and he didn’t. That is his right. Getting the search warrant would be the next step.”
“VIPD continues efforts to locate Ms. Heslop, conducting multiple searches daily, speaking to potential witnesses, and combing through hours of surveillance video,” the police spokesman said, adding that the Virgin Islands Police Department is acting as the lead agency in the investigation into Heslop’s disappearance
Police said it “remains committed to locating Ms. Heslop.” It asked anyone with information into the whereabouts of Sarm Joan Lillian Heslop or any other missing person to call 911 or the Criminal Investigation Bureau in the St. Thomas- St. John District at (340) 774-2211 or in the St. Croix District at (340) 778-2211.